Esben and the Witch – «Marching Song»

Esben and the Witch is a Danish fairy tale

A farmer had twelve sons, the youngest of these he named Esben. He was small in contrast to his brothers who were all big and strong. One day the brothers persuaded their father to let them seek their fortunes. He gave each of them a horse and a small sum of money to help them on their way, Esben decided he too would leave although his father refused to aid him as he had his other sons. Upon leaving Esben peeled the bark from a stick until it was whiter than all his brother’s horses and rode off on it. So that night the brothers left on their proud horses with Esben travelling on the stick he had found on the ground.

After a few days the eleven brothers came upon a small house in a forest. This was home to an old hag who not only allowed the brothers to stay for as many nights as they wished, she also gave each of them one of her daughters for company. The brothers were most pleased and prepared for bed. Esben did not sleep, he lay awake for some time troubled by some unsettling thought that he couldn’t quite place. He left the bed and began to sneak through the ruined cottage; he visited each of his brother’s rooms where they slept with the hags daughters. He quietly ordered his brothers to secretly swap their nightcaps with their partner’s caps. At midnight the witch came with a knife and cut all of her daughter’s throats. Esben and his brothers fled, the eleven leaving him behind as they urged their horses on frantically.

The brothers left the forest and the hideous hag far behind and took work for the king as stable boys. In time Esben arrived also but was not able to find any work at all, he survived on his wits alone. At the castle the brothers refused to stand to attention for Sir Red, a knight whom everyone in the castle hated but the king liked. Angered by this perceived insubordination Sir Red sought revenge by telling the king that the brothers had said they could get the king a dove with both a silver and a gold feather. Upon hearing this the king summoned the brothers and demanded they bring him the dove. The brothers were perplexed; Esben heard of their plight and asked that they bring him some peas which one of them soon did as they were bereft of any ideas of their own. Esben took the peas, climbed aboard his stick and journeyed back to the witch’s house in the forest. He had noticed she owned such a dove. Esben enticed the bird with the peas and caught it. The old hag saw him but too late and he was gone, not before exchanging taunts. He gave the dove to his brothers who gave it to the king who was delighted.

Sir Red was furious that the brothers had managed to give the king the dove. He claimed next that they had told him they could get the king a boar with silver and gold bristles. Esben this time requested a bag of malt form his brothers, he traveled back to the witch’s house, lured the boar out with the malt and captured it. The king was thrilled although the brothers did not even thank Esben.

Sir Red now told the king that the brothers could bring him a lamp which could shine over seven kingdoms. Esben asked his brothers this time for a bag of salt. For this task Esben had to enter the witches home, he entered secretly by the chimney. He crept about the decaying house but could not find the lamp which the witch guarded carefully. Esben hid in the baking oven and waited. The witch called to her daughter and demanded some porridge with no salt added, Esben emptied his bag into the porridge slyly when it was left unattended. The hag complained and had her daughter make more; she found though that they needed more water. The daughter requested the lamp from the witch so she could go out in the gloomy forest to fetch more. Esben followed her to the well, pushed her in and stole the lamp.

After the king received the lamp, Sir Red made a new claim about a coverlet that sounded when touched. Esben again went to the house in the forest taking nothing this time. He tried to steal the coverlet but it erupted with noise when he touched it and the witch caught him. She imprisoned Esben in a pit and began to fatten him up, although her daughter began to take a liking for him. Esben grew tired of the dark hole he was captive in and waited for an opportunity. One day the witch had to go to a meeting of witches, she ordered her daughter to roast Esben whilst she was away. She took him out but could not force him into the oven. He tricked the witch’s daughter and pushed her into the oven so he could steal the coverlet. As Esben left the house with the coverlet he encountered the witch and told her he would never return. The witch stopped and then suddenly burst into pieces of flint. When Esben returned to the castle he found his eleven brothers had all been imprisoned and were to be executed. Esben explained what had happened and the king freed the brothers and then ordered the treacherous Sir Red to be hanged. The king then rewarded the brothers with mountains of gold and silver and they returned home telling their father how Esben had saved them.

Esben and the Witch – «Marching Song»

The video for Esben and the Witch’s Matador Records debut ‘Marching Song’, released October 11th 2010.


~ από kapetank στο 25/08/2010.


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